ttc bus crowding

Calls mount for more buses as TTC routes continue to be plagued by overcrowding

While TTC ridership has consistently stayed well below regular levels since the pandemic first arrived last March — sitting at approximately 32 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels as of last month — certain bus routes frequented by many of the city's essential workers continue to be plagued by crowding issues.

The TTC has taken action to address the situation, including by recalling all laid-off operators in November, deploying extra buses on crowded routes, restoring express bus service on busy corridors such as Jane Street and Lawrence Avenue East, and more. 

"The TTC is continuing to provide extra service and additional capacity in the neighbourhoods that need it most," said TTC Chair Jaye Robinson in a statement in December.

"We've seen that ridership in Toronto's north end, including parts of North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough, has been higher than in other parts of Toronto, and we will continue to focus on proactively monitoring and responding to demand in those areas."

And yet, crowding issues persist, and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath is now circulating a petition calling upon the provincial government to invest more money in the transit system so additional buses can be secured. 

"All over Ontario, people are forced to pack onto busses and train cars to get to work," reads the petition. 

"Instead of sitting on billions in COVID relief funds, Ford needs to invest to add busses, cap rider numbers, and stop the spread. Our essential workers deserve safe transit."

Horwath also shared a video on Twitter Friday morning showing unsafe crowding on a TTC bus, and she also called for a rider cap to be introduced.

Horwath's call resembles a request put forward by ATU 113 Toronto, the TTC workers union, in October, in which transit operators demanded that regular buses be limited to just 10 riders at a time and articulated buses to just 15 passengers at once. 

That call, evidently, went unanswered, and now the union is calling for even more safety measures to help protect workers and riders alike. 

In a news release issued shortly after Premier Doug Ford's state of emergency and stay-at-home order announcement last week, ATU Local 113 President Carlos Santos said the TTC should be implementing the same health and safety measures as during the first wave of the pandemic.

"For months, ATU Local 113 has demanded that the TTC reimplement rear-door boarding on buses, block the two seats behind bus operators, stop accepting cash payments and cease issuing paper transfers to bus riders," reads the release.

"The TTC has yet to implement these sensible measures despite surging coronavirus cases in Toronto, including 362 TTC employees testing positive for COVID-19 since March 2020."

In early December, the TTC did promise that it would be retraining subway and streetcar operators to drive buses over the next two months, resulting in even more vehicles on the road in the new year, though it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to effectively reduce crowding on the busiest routes. 

"With daily COVID-19 cases in Ontario being over five times what they were in the spring and Ontario re-entering a state of emergency, the TTC needs to stop dragging its feet when it comes to workplace safety," Santos said.

"The TTC must act now to better protect public transit workers and riders, especially those in underserved communities who rely on buses that are often crowded."

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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